Oldest man to row Atlantic solo reunites with wife after beating own record

A grandfather has reunited with his wife after beating his own Guinness World Record as the oldest person to row across the Atlantic solo following a “special” but treacherous 64-day voyage.

Frank Rothwell, 73, completed the 3,000-mile challenge as part of the World’s Toughest Row and he reunited with his wife of 53 years, Judith, in Antigua on Thursday after spending more than two months at sea.

The chairman of Oldham Athletic AFC set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 13, enduring bad weather and winds which capsized his boat and set him off-course on several occasions.

“It’s special isn’t it, to break your own record,” Mr Rothwell, from Oldham, told the PA news agency.

“It was really, really difficult and one day the currents moved me back eight miles overnight so I had to row over the same piece of ocean twice, which took four or five hours.

“To break a record is special but to break your own record is serious stuff and it’s brilliant.”

Frank and Judith Rothwell hugging after he completed the challenge
Frank Rothwell reunited with his wife Judith in Antigua on Thursday after spending 64 days at sea (World’s Toughest Row/PA)

“To meet Judith again for the first time after being away is absolutely brilliant,” Mr Rothwell said.

Judith Rothwell said that the challenge had been harder on her and her family this time around, telling PA: “The first time when he did it, it was a lot easier than this.

“This had been a hard one mentally and physically for us all.

“It’s been hard obviously for Frank but for us, turning the boat over a few times and various things like that, it’s not been an easy trip.

Frank Rothwell during his row across the Atlantic
Frank Rothwell undertook the challenge with the aim of raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research UK (World’s Toughest Row/PA)

Mr Rothwell said the hardest part of his voyage was around Christmas, when his boat capsized while he was in the cabin.

“You know the boat is going to capsize at some point but I wasn’t as prepared for it, as devastating as it was,” he said.

“All of a sudden the boat is full of peanuts, I’d not put the lid on the peanut jar, the Mars bars are everywhere, it’s all mixed up.

“When the boat went on its side, the water came in and everything was wet through – my clothes, my bed where I sleep, everything was wet.

“It was a tumble-dryer effect while you’re inside this little cocoon, it was a bit of a shock.”

Mr Rothwell added that while he was putting his sea anchor down, a “big wave smacked the boat on the side and sent me overboard”.

He said: “I had a day off and tried to get myself together because it was very emotional, but after taking a day and speaking to Judith, I carried on.

Frank Rothwell holding up a banner reading New World Record
Frank Rothwell said it was ‘special’ to beat his own Guinness World Record (World’s Toughest Row/PA)

With his latest voyage, Mr Rothwell has raised more than £270,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

The cause is close to Mr Rothwell’s heart having lost his brother-in-law and best friend to the condition.

“It’s great because I’ve found an opportunity to actually make a difference to a really worthwhile charity,” he said.

“We’ve got to start addressing this condition and I feel as though I’m doing something to help.”

He added that a song came to mind from the 1958 film Damn Yankees, saying: “The song is called You Gotta Have Heart, and that’s what this is all about.

Emma Whitcombe, deputy chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “From everyone here at Alzheimer’s Research UK, we would like to congratulate Frank on his successful crossing of the Atlantic and new record.

“Over the course of the 3,000-mile race, Frank overcame the challenges of the ocean, and we are in awe of his determination to complete this adventure.

“We are incredibly moved by Frank’s efforts to raise vital awareness and support our search for a cure.”

– To find out more, visit: justgiving.com/campaign/frankrothwell

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